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Rhonda Herrington Bulmer
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January 3rd, 2012
It’s fantastic, but…don’t mess with formula
by Rhonda Herrington Bulmer

Once I start reading a book, I forget everything else. A new book to me is a bit like the chocolate cake on the counter. If it were possible, I would eat the whole thing, all at once.  I don’t know when to stop.

This is why I usually save book-reading for weekends or holidays, when I can be left relatively undisturbed and absorb the words from morning to evening,  to the wee hours, with only bathroom breaks and the occasional trip to the coffee machine—resulting in more bathroom breaks.

So you can imagine how hard I was gripping the pages of The Hunger Games and its two sequels (Scholastic, 2007, 2009, 2010), written by Suzanne Collins. I read all three books, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and MockingJay in nearly one sitting over the Christmas holiday.

This young adult series is fast-paced with an extremely-detailed plot, but also rich in emotion…the kind of book I aspire to write. Its geographic locations, technological imagery and perceptive descriptions of the division between rich and poor, inspired both admiration and just a teensy bit of jealousy.

It seems Collins must have plotted out all three seamless books, (at least loosely) from beginning to end, before she ever began knitting the first few words together.

Part dystopian, part science fiction and part romance, The Hunger Games trilogy centers on a teenage girl, Katniss, who ekes out a living in a poor section of a futuristic, re-envisioned earth. She is forced by a totalitarian government to participate in a barbaric yearly ritual in order to save her family. The games are viewed by a rich and shallow portion of the public, desperate for entertainment. Her actions set off a chain of events that lead to civil war.

Of course, the story is reminiscent of Roman history, with its powerful center and powerless provinces; its gladiators who butchered one another in the Colosseum; and the horrific experiences of early Christians and others tortured by crazy emperors for the entertainment of the masses.

It’s about the horrors of war, how children suffer particularly, and the tendency for humankind to repeat its mistakes.

The one thing I didn’t care for is the love triangle between Katniss, her best friend and fellow hunter, Gale, and the baker’s boy, Peeta.  The triangle resolves itself in a satisfactory way, but not because the main character took any initiative. She is remarkably oblivious to her own feelings, right up to the end, especially the ones that precipitate some herculean efforts to save these two fellows.

A little bit’s okay, but the author carries it all the way to the last couple of pages of the final book, and by then, I’m dying. I’m dying!

Some romance movies (chick flicks) tend to do this lately, too… Sweet Home Alabama (2002–Reese Witherspoon, Josh Lucas, Patrick Dempsey) for example.  They place a girl in between two equally-likable boys, and tell me to choose.

I hate that. Don’t mess with formula.

Just tell me who to like. Really. One of them has to be a dough-head, or what am I supposed to do? Break one of their hearts? I can’t do it! I can’t do it, I tell you.

I suppose my distaste flows from the fact that I don’t believe one can really love more than one person at a time. I think that’s silly. If you think that’s possible, there’s just one word for you: deluded. Go home, take a bath…light some candles, read a book… and make up your mind, for heaven’s sake.

2 Responses to “It’s fantastic, but…don’t mess with formula”

  1. charmaine says:

    I re-read what you said Rhonda and I agree on a certain level that there was a bit of difficulty figuring out who to like, but on the other hand for me there was only one of the guys who deserved her love.

    Yes you do say that you were waiting until the end…and that is frustrating. And yes, many stupid romance movies do that which irritates me to no end. However, books rarely do. So going back to movie reference, it is like The Return of The King and they have just battled and won, and then that night someone says…”Hey look! Sauron’s eye is destroyed…I guess they made it.” The end. It was entirely unsatisfactory. I really struggle to suggest to someone that they keep reading. But maybe it won’t bother them as much.

    • The ending was unsatisfactory to me, also, but it didn’t irritate me enough to say, don’t read it. Perhaps other people aren’t as romantic as we are? I loved the story in its entirety and feel it was a great accomplishment. As for books, I don’t think this kind of love triangle (with a somewhat undeserving object of the other two’s affections) is all that rare: what about Archie Andrews, Betty and Veronica? That’s been going on for 50 years! I always thought he should be with Betty, because she was nice and unpretentious. But stupid Archie couldn’t make up his mind, either. If I were Betty, I’d move on and find somebody who deserved me!

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